Effective Altruism London Landscape in 2019
Over the last few months I’ve found myself describing the landscape of effective altruism in London to multiple people and thought it may be useful to write it down to give a better idea for those who are interested.
A key point is that it’s hard to know exactly what defines someone who is a member as we have no formal membership, and there are varying levels of interest and engagement. Within London there are people who are interested and engaged in EA but not ‘part’ of Effective Altruism London (EAL), i.e. not in any of the Facebook groups, not on the mailing list and not going to events organised by EAL. They may still be quite engaged by having friendship groups that were involved in EA at university or working at an EA related organisation but that is a minority. Most people will be engaged via their careers/donations/reading but without a link to others interested in EA or the main EAL community.
I would guess that less than 10% of people who are aware of effective altruism in London interact with EAL in some way. For people who are highly engaged with EA I would guess 50% but these numbers are quite uncertain.
A Brief History of EA London
EA London was started by Sam Hilton in 2012 as a volunteer project, mainly consisting of monthly socials and occasional talks. In 2016 Sam took a year out to set up EA London as a registered charity and work as a full time community organiser, funded by people in the EA London community after a few strategy meetings where we thought that this might be a useful experiment to try.
At the end of 2017 Sam went back into the civil service and Holly Morgan and I worked part time for EAL. In 2019 we were funded by a grant from CEA for one person to work on community building full time. The strategy has shifted over time from raising awareness and trying to increase attendance. There is now a focus on increasing the amount of value added connections people have as a result of EAL actions, including to other people, resources and research. There is an overview of the 2019 strategy here.
What EA London Has
1 full time employee
Registered charity status, allowing gift aid and re-granting to other EA organisations (less relevant now with EA funds)
Website with links to sub-communities and resources
Mailing list of 2000 people with about 1000 opening the newsletter each month
Community directory with 80+ people
20-50 informal volunteers at various times over the year, mainly people that run their own sub-communities or events
What EA London Does
Maintain the website, Facebook and charity infrastructure
1-1 discussions, usually focused on careers, donating or learning more about EA
Helping connect people to jobs/resources
Supporting EA organisations and sub-groups with marketing, feedback and connections
Acting as a gatekeeper/filter for various groups and to help introduce people who are new to EA London to find out relevant ways to get involved
Occasional events, but mainly supporting others who want to run events
Effective Altruism Groups in London
Here is a summary of the various groups in London, generally most are not that active until they get to 150+ members, with exceptions for groups that are quite specialised like policy and biosecurity. Student groups vary wildly in activity depending on who is in the committee that year.
AI Strategy and Policy (30 Facebook members) - monthly meetups
Software, Data and Tech (210) - monthly meetups
EA Research (10)
Finance (100) - meetups every two or three months
Policy (50) - monthly meetups
Civil Service (50) - monthly meetups and career advice
Animal Welfare (570) - monthly meetups, career advice, has occasionally hosted large talks and Q&As with EA related organisations
Long Term Future (110) - has had a couple of meetups in the last 12 months
International Development (140) - sporadic meetings, maybe 3-4 times a year
Biosecurity (10) - monthly meetups
Social (510) - one of the most active groups with 2-6 events a month, common ones being picnics, meditation and hiking
Flat-sharing (270) - to my knowledge there are at least 10 homes with 3 or more people, although most of those came about outside of this group
Co-working (160) - used 2 to 4 times a month
Peer Support (60)
Group organiser group (30)
Christian—this is a global group but they have an event every month or so in London
There are also a couple more discussion groups that I’m aware of, one for climate change and another for systems thinking
EA Related Organisations in London
In the last two years there have been more EA related organisations being created or moving to London. They rarely have public events (except for animal orgs and the APPG) and so interaction with the wider community is limited.
Animal Welfare—Most of these are the UK based teams
Long Term Future
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk—In Cambridge
Future of Humanity Institute—In Oxford
Global Priorities Institute—In Oxford
Forethought Foundation—In Oxford
There are some remote staff in London for various EA related organisations, such as Animal Charity Evaluators, Centre for Effective Altruism, GiveWell, Sentience Institute and Rethink Charity.
There are also small pockets of people at various other organisations although these are often not as active and I can only think of a few workplaces with at least 3 people who regularly meet.
It may be best to see effective altruism in London as mainly individuals interested in EA, with a subset of people who are parts of various networks, maybe working in the civil service, tech or finance and may want to stay up to date with EA news but would only come to an event once every year or two but are much happier engaging when a relevant topic comes up or the chance to help someone in their career path. There is an even smaller subset of maybe 100-200 people who regularly go to events once a month or so, usually within a subgroup. Over time EA London has shifted our strategy to consider that most of the value may not be from attendance or online engagement and have tried to fill in gaps not covered by existing organisations